The New Zealand Warriors celebrate their 20th anniversary this weekend with a showdown against the Brisbane Broncos on Sunday. Flashback Friday profiles the match that introduced the world to the Warriors, the opening-round thriller against Broncos in 1995.
The Auckland Warriors’ feverishly-anticipated premiership debut met all expectations, but the match-winning class of Allan Langer was the key factor in Brisbane’s pulsating 25-22 win in front of 29,220 rabid fans at Ericsson Stadium.
International three-quarters Willie Carne and Chris Johns propelled the visitors to a 10-0 lead after 15 minutes, before veteran fullback Phil Blake netted the Warriors’ first-ever try five minutes later – a cracking touchdown featuring brilliant work from Manoa Thompson and Whetu Taewa.
Subsequent tries to Sean Hoppe, Tony Tatupu and Tea Ropati had the Auckland crowd in raptures, their team leading the heavyweight Broncos 22-10, 10 minutes in the second half.
But two quick-fire individual tries by Langer, who had a point to prove after being deposed from the Test team by Ricky Stuart on the ’94 Kangaroo Tour, evened the scoreboard, however, and Julian O’Neill edged the Broncos to victory with a penalty and a field goal – but not before withstanding a furious Warriors attacking foray in the dying seconds.
The Warriors’ first visit to Brisbane was less auspicious, pumped 44-6 with a top-eight spot on the line in the final round as Steve Renouf equalled his own club record with four tries.